Coping with PTSD Within and Without the VA
By Bill Ronan
As a "Vietnam Veteran Against the War," I spent over two infantry years in Vietnam. It was like joining prison to commit the crimes.
Once released, I sought to understand how our country could get so many of us to go to another country we had never heard of, to kill, or be killed, by people we did not know, for economic, political, and theological theories, about which we were mostly uninformed. I took up the study of propaganda and political persuasion to see if any answers were under those subjects. However, it is very difficult to make a living at teaching propaganda. Propaganda is a subject virtually nobody wants to know about. Along the way, however, I learned a psychotherapeutic method, now called Medical Hypnoanalysis.
Since learning about this method of psychotherapy I have seen many PTSD patients including Vietnam veterans. I found it to be very useful. Medical Hypnoanalysts uses descriptive labels like the "Walking Zombie Syndrome" (WZS) that I and many like me acquired in Vietnam. The tour seemed like several lifetimes and there was virtual certainty of death to any activity in the infantry. It began to seem that death was preferable to existence. Thus, it became natural to feel "dead-like" and this became a coping mechanism. Better to be dead than to be going through what was happening. Paradoxically, that helped many of us to survive. However, I noticed that often toward the end of a person's tour some of us became more likely to get killed. Many had abandoned the Walking Zombie persona and were again excited about life "being back to LIFE in the world." Being a Zombie had, I think, played a role in the survival for many of us, by keeping our minds "in country."
It was like many of us died mentally in Vietnam. And that was a real death for us because it was accepted by the subconscious mind. Also many of us, and in particular those with PTSD, also acquired what I have learned to call the "Ponce de Leon Syndrome" (PDL) which suggests an age arrest also described many of us. Part of us died and life was what happened before the death and being in Vietnam. That is the reason, I believe, why many veterans, often, do not seem to have grown up and like to party like they were 18 years old or younger. The average age in Vietnam was 19. The only life we knew before Vietnam.
Psychotherapeutic methods of dealing with these coping mechanisms I found and share with others who practice Medical Hypnoanalysis. Such practitioners may be found where you are located and can be found at the American Academy of Medical Hypnoanalysts website at www.aamh.com.
I had sought out counseling while in Vietnam and saw a Navy psychiatrist. I complained that we were killing our own troops as the ammunition for our mortars were made in World War II. The increments that propelled the rounds had broken down. There were times I could see the rounds come out of the tubes. All the Vietnamese I was seeing could not have a clue about communism or capitalism. They were just trying to survive. The doctor labeled me a "perfectionist." This taught me a lot about our military health care systems.
Another aspect I personally include, when warranted, is the ramifications of betrayal that our country has left on many of us, which is left out of many practitioners in and out of the VA.
Bill Ronan, LICSW, is a Medical Hypnoanalyst and Certified PTSD Clinician in Minnesota. Bill also specializes in CBT & Mindfulness. He is the author of Psychological Autopsy: Elvis Presley. Bill can be reached at www.MNHypnosis.com.